Each morning in our LEEP into Communication therapeutic preschool program (originally described here) we have Circle Time. In many ways, this involves much of what you would see in any typical preschool or kindergarten Circle Time, but we have made numerous individualized adaptations for the kids. One successful support that we added this year has been our “Who’s Here Today?” board. This is an idea we recreated based on one used by the very talented Susan Dambroff, a teacher I was lucky enough to work with at Oak Hill School in Marin County, California some years ago.
On one side of the board we reproduced a house and on the other a school. Above these is an airplane. We have small laminated photos of all of the children and teachers, and at Circle Time we each move our photos from home to school, attaching them to a small piece of Velcro. Each child moves his own photo and we sing a brief song with the child’s name in it to celebrate that he’s at school. When a child or teacher is not at school, we leave their photo on the house and talk about why he/she is not there. Similarly, when someone is on vacation, we move his photo to the airplane and talk about him each day, what he might be doing, and when he will return.
This ritualized way to process who is or is not with us each day with concrete visual aids has been very helpful for our students. We have also found that it inspires some of the kids to comment on where they went on vacation or why they were at home the day before, which we can use to jumpstart group conversations. Like so many of the best strategies, it lends itself to both improved behavior regulation and communication skills.